October 20th 1918

Daily Telegraph 17/10/18

The death of Fluff Taylor strikes at the heart of the OPS family and both my brother Hum and I would like to record our thoughts and appreciation of his life as a pupil, colleague and friend.

Fluff Taylor attended the OPS from 1882-86, coinciding with my arrival at the school (then at 17 Crick Road, Oxford) in 1882.

Fluff, as a Dragon

I can see Fluff now with his reddish curly rough hair and his honest freckled face and bright dancing eyes, dressed in a sailor suit. I used to put him up on a desk in the old school at Crick Road and he sang ‘Kitty Wells’ and recited the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus’ most pathetically.

Then later he was our swimming instructor and started the tradition of fearless diving which has been maintained ever since. In those days the Lodge was a merry place and Fluff was the life of it. Then we heard of his exploits in the Himalayas when fighting fierce tribesmen; the Boer War (which claimed the life of his brother, Rex), Graspan and Magersfontein, then colonial work in Nigeria.

When the Great War came he rejoined the Army, was wounded, went back again and after winning many decorations was hit by shrapnel under his helmet on October 1st.

During all those years he constantly came back to his old school, always the same old Fluff. He chummed with different generations of boys, he got them countless ‘halves’ and ‘no preps’; he told them grand yarns, he pillow-fought in the dorms…  There was always a thrill of delight when GC (Mr Vassall) told us that Fluff was coming.

And always he took me with him to the beautiful cemetery at Holywell and laid wreaths of flowers on the graves of his father and brother; and then he would talk to me of higher things, of the mysteries of life here and hereafter – and lately he always came back in our talks to the absolutely magnificent behaviour of his men – their humour, their readiness to make the best of things and such awful things, their refusal to give in to hunger and sleeplessness and awful sounds and sights; he told me how anxious they were about his welfare and that of other officers.

‘Tommy,’ like the boys and myself, never had a dearer or truer or warmer-hearted friend. His resting place is at La Kreule, but his spirit is ever with us to inspire and to cheer and to love.

My brother, Hum Lynam has written:

“In Bedford and Sandhurst days his buoyant spirit, supported by a high reputation as a footballer, won him great influence in School and College. But he was no mere jolly athlete. He won a Scholarship at Bedford and the School Prize for Latin Verse. He quoted Latin in letters from India, with just enough degree of error to prove the genuineness of his knowledge. His descriptions of the antiquities of Crete, his poems, his plea for the serious study of French, showed clearly the instinct of a scholar…

He once wrote a letter to the Draconian to protest that ‘none of the boys (as shown in a photo of the School XI which he had recently received) appears to possess a brush and comb.’ The protest is characteristic. As a soldier he knew and taught the importance of attention to detail: and in one of the best sermons we ever heard – which Fluff preached on March 4th 1917 – he elaborated this point to the complete conviction of right roughest-haired Dragon in the room.”

As our friend, Archer Vassall, has observed,

“There is no Dragon out of the whole number serving who was more intimately bound to the School.”

 

 

 

July 11th 1917

With mild mumps and some German measles prevalent, it has not been possible to arrange cricket matches against other schools this term.

The situation has been saved by our old friend Nurse, now Sister Wilkinson, who left us in 1914 to work in the Base Hospital and is now working at Somerville College. (The college, being next door to the Radcliffe Infirmary was taken over by the military in 1915 to provide accommodation for wounded officers).

We were visited a couple of years ago by groups of wounded soldiers, who bowled and batted in the nets and now, thanks to Sister Wilkinson, teams of wounded officers from Somerville have been regular visitors.

As Chris Jacques (who is leaving us at the end of this term to go to Repton) has recorded:

“An experimental match was played against ‘Sister Wilkinson’s XI,’ who was in charge of Dragon boarders before the war. Some of the visiting batsmen needed a runner, some of their bowlers had to dispense with a run-up, and they were suitably handicapped in the field – and the game was so much enjoyed by both sides that it was repeated each week for the rest of the term, with the visitors bringing, wheeling and even carrying more and more supporters with them each time.

In the evening bathe that followed each match, we were joined by those of our opponents who had Sister Wilkinson’s permission, and by one or two more who had arranged for her attention to be distracted.”

As popular as the cricket matches were, the teas were perhaps even more enjoyed – particularly by me and the macaws:

Bath-chair cases were very grateful to Mrs Vassall and her lady helpers. Instead of being wheeled along dusty streets, obtaining in the process parched throats and having to swallow mouthfuls of ‘petrofine,’ several have been able to sit in comfortable surroundings, watch the cricket and enjoy themselves thoroughly.

I think that the matches have been at least as good for the boys, and in many ways more enjoyable, than the usual matches with other schools.

 

Hum Lynam (top right) with young Dragons and old soldiers…

May 9th 1917

No-one went off to war with a heavier heart than our own Pug – Lieut. Lindsay Wallace (OBLI) – being a Dragon, man and boy.

Since he left our Staff he has managed a number of visits, much to the delight of the boys. Last term he talked to them on the subject “With the troops in training” and they were intrigued by his description of the workings of the Mills bomb.

Pug has now returned to active service and even if, dare I say it, the OPS is not always the tidiest of places, the contrast between home and the Front is a stark one.

28/4/17 “We started off yesterday from the base and were told we would take about two days to reach our division.

Three of us had a first-class compartment to ourselves. We managed to get some tea and cake before leaving the station and then started on our journey very slowly indeed at about 4 p.m.

I have never seen such a sight as the sides of the line, in some places they are layers deep in tins of all descriptions thrown out of the carriages. This doesn’t apply to one particular spot but all along the line: without exaggeration there must have been millions of tins.

Also all along the line were kids who kept shouting ‘bisceet,’ and they generally got one. In many places there were German prisoners, who got cigarettes thrown to them…

After quite a good meal, which was helped on very much by heating up a meat tin over my cooker, we all settled down to sleep and I was very glad to have quite a good night.

Then all of a sudden we were woken up, about 5.30, and all told to get out. We got up and packed our various belongings and turned out, and there we were, right in it: almost every house is blown to bits, some have the walls standing and a few have the roof left in places.

It was a bit of a shock getting out of the train into a sort of shattered world.”

 

I have picked out this picture to remind us all of happier times.

It was taken by our VC hero, Jack Smyth outside The Lodge a few years before the war, and shows three stalwarts of my Staff: my brother Hum (AE Lynam), Pug (WJL Wallace) and Cheese (GC Vassall).

It seems a long time ago and from a different world now.